Any day now, Jose Ramirez could end MLB's 30-30 drought. And that's just one of the impressive feats that the Indians' third baseman is working toward with his unusual combination of power and speed.Ramirez's season is about far more than just home runs and stolen bases, of course. A year
Any day now, Jose Ramirez could end MLB's 30-30 drought. And that's just one of the impressive feats that the Indians' third baseman is working toward with his unusual combination of power and speed.
Ramirez's season is about far more than just home runs and stolen bases, of course. A year after his third-place finish in the American League Most Valuable Player Award voting, Ramirez again has put himself right in the thick of that race, ranking among the MLB leaders in wins above replacement (WAR) for a Cleveland club headed toward its third consecutive postseason appearance.
But Ramirez's ability to both clear the fences and burn up the basepaths is rare these days, and it helps explain his significant value.
The 25-year-old hit just 11 home runs in 152 games two years ago, but he tapped into his power in 2017 and has carried that over into '18, while also taking a more aggressive approach as a runner. Ramirez's 33 homers through Thursday put him two behind Boston's J.D. Martinez for the AL lead, while his 27 steals put him one ahead of Seattle's Dee Gordon for the top spot.
While the Red Sox's Mookie Betts (27 homers, 22 steals), the Angels' Michael Trout (30 homers, 21 steals) and the Cubs' Javier Baez (25 homers, 19 steals) are among the other players within range of a 30-30 campaign, Ramirez is best positioned to get there, and soon. When he does, he'd be only the fifth switch-hitter to reach that mark, joining Jimmy Rollins (2007), Carlos Beltran ('04), Jose Cruz Jr. ('01) and Howard Johnson (1987, '89, '91).
Ramirez also would be the game's first 30-30 man since Trout and Ryan Braun in 2012, snapping a five-season drought that is the longest since 1964-68. (Not counting strike-shortened '94, MLB had at least one 30-30 man in all but one season from '87-12). There's also at least an outside chance that Ramirez could become only the fifth 40-40 man in MLB history, and the first since Alfonso Soriano in '06.
But Ramirez also has a realistic shot to break a much longer dry spell.
Just three times in MLB history has a player produced a season in which he has led his league (AL or National League) in both homers and steals. It hasn't happened in 86 years -- when the game was in a much different place, pre-integration and pre-expansion. Here's a quick look at the exclusive club Ramirez might join, keeping in mind that these hitters each played in eight-team leagues with much shallower player pools.
• Chuck Klein of the 1932 Phillies tied Mel Ott for the NL lead with 38 home runs, and he also topped the league with a modest 20 steals. Klein won the NL MVP Award that year, as the left-handed slugger batted an astounding .423/.464/.799 with 29 home runs in 77 games while taking aim at the tiny right-field dimensions at his home ballpark, the Baker Bowl.
• Ty Cobb of the 1909 Tigers ran away with the AL stolen-base title, swiping 76 of his 897 career bags. The .377-batting Triple Crown winner also led the league in homers for the only time in his Hall of Fame career, collecting nine -- all of them inside-the-park jobs. This was, after all, the Dead Ball Era.
• Jimmy Sheckard of the 1903 Brooklyn Superbas (later Dodgers) also hit nine homers to rank first in his league. The lefty-hitting outfielder tied the Cubs' Frank Chance -- of "Tinker to Evers to Chance" fame -- for the NL lead with 67 steals, while batting .332.
Ramirez has a tough battle ahead of him to become No. 4 on this list. Five other AL hitters have at least 30 home runs, and three others have at least 25 stolen bases, so there is no shortage of challengers in both categories.
But even if Ramirez falls short, he still could pull off something rare.
No player has finished a season in even the top 10 in his league in both homers and steals since Hunter Pence of the 2013 Giants. (In addition to Ramirez, Betts, Trout, Baez and Ramirez's teammate Francisco Lindor all are in such position to this point in '18.)
Jacoby Ellsbury, in his AL MVP Award runner-up year with the 2011 Red Sox, is the most recent player to finish fifth or better in both categories. He had 32 homers (tied for fifth) and 39 steals (tied for fourth) that season. Just four other players have managed that top-five combo since 1990: Barry Bonds ('90, '96), Vladimir Guerrero ('02), Soriano ('02, '03) and Matt Kemp ('11).
Of those, Kemp is the only one to put together a pair of top-three finishes. In 2011, he led the NL with 39 homers and tied for second with 40 steals, coming in a close second to Braun in the NL MVP Award race.
But to find another player who finished in the top three in his league in both categories -- or to find the most recent to do so in the AL -- you have to go back more than 40 years. In 1977, 19 years before his son became a 40-40 man, Bobby Bonds swatted 37 big flies and swiped 41 bags for the California Angels. That tied him for second in the AL in homers and third in steals.
Flash forward to 2018, and Ramirez has 48 games remaining to add to his stat line, beginning with the Indians' three-game series at the White Sox that begins Friday night.
As Ramirez gears up for this stretch run, Cleveland's dynamic double threat has a shot to slug and sprint his way to something with little recent precedent.
Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.